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Published: August 11th 2013
Episode 2: One week in Rio
We are safe and well and have come to the end of a week in Rio. Is is truly an excellent place, highly recommended. Apart from one day of miserable grey weather, it was hot and sunny and about 30 degrees the whole week - not too shabby at all for a southern hemisphere "Winter."
The beach culture here is fab. You dont take anything to the beach but yourself and a few dollars (it would otherwise be stolen). Instead, for a few dollars, you hire towels, chair, umbrella, etc. Vendors walk up and down the beach, selling snacks, cold drinks , even booze. Or you can walk a few feet up onto the promenade to one of the many juice bars and the guy behind the bar will deftly hack open a chilled coconut with a small machette, and insert a straw - surprisingly tasty and refreshing. We started off at Posto 9, the gay section of Ipanema beach. It was amusing watching the speedo-clad guys preening and posing up and down the beach (speedos are de rigueur regardless of sexuality, although boardies are making a come back). Then we moved down to Arpaodor, where I had a great swim and Ross snoozed on the sand. (Having grown up on the beach, I am much more at home in the ocean than is Ross).
The national dish of Brazil is something called Feijoada - a meat stew with orange slices, rice, manoic and black beans on the side and a shot of cachaca (the sugar cane rum used in the wildly popular Caipirinha cocktails). Well, in a nutshell, we hated it. The stew comprised a frigthening assortment of animal off cuts that would make Kevin MacDonald cringe. This included bits of backbone, tails, and a rubbery triangular thing that looked suspicously like an ear. The only recognisable tissue was an intact sausagae (.........Oh, hang on, that might not have been a sausage....) I tried to move the food around my plate to look like it had been eaten, there being no handy potplant nearby into which to fling it. Ross did a heroic job of finding morsels of muscle amongst the fat and grissle, while basically I just ate the rice (bland), beans (unappealing) and the manoic (sawdust). I guess the Feijoada dish is essentially a cultural thing: what we saw as a gastronomic terrorist attack, the locals view as a delicious plate-licking delighs ! After eating the feijoada, we descended upon the nearest neighbouring eatery to expunge the taste. It proved to be a Macdonalds, where we ate an apple pie thingy. While eating on the sidewalk, Ross turned to me and said: " Well, Smiddy, I'm sure your wordsmith powers will not be able to fully describe how fucking vile that feijoada was." And indeed words fail me, so I leave the final comment to the pejorative from Ross above.
One day, we went to the wonderful botanical gardens in Rio. Lots of lush rainforest trees and two avenues of huge magnificent palm trees radiating out from a central fountain. We saw a troop of amusing capuchin monkey and more the the exquistiely cute marmosests, which Ross was amazed to learn were actually primates. However, the highlight for me was my first encounter with toucans - a pair of brilliant yellow and orange breasted birds, eating seeds in a tree (channel billed toucans, I later learnt).
On our last night in Rio, our hosts, John and Cindy were having a party in the place where we were staying, to celebrate their recent wedding. Cake and champagne was the order of the evening, although Ross and I only lasted till 9pm - due to lingering jetlag, we have yet to survive past 9pm (and then waking at 6am). Anyway, at 2am the next morning, we were rudely woken by god-almight explosions going off somewhere nearby. They lasted about 30 -60 seconds. We both sat bolt upright at the sound, wondering if a war had started. The next day, I said to our host John:
" We enjoyed ourselves last night at your party, and are happy the you two got married, but did you really need to set off bloody fireworks at 2am to mark the event?"
"That was the favela". he laughed . "Drug lords indicating that drugs had arrived, or they may have just been having a late night party." Some party, as the noise was way more than just fireworks, we thought.
I forgot to mention the the previous blog that , when flying from Santiago, Chile, to Rio de Janeiro, we went over the Andes mountain range. Large , jagged and barren peaks, dusted with snow. Lots of high altitude desert, I noted. The plane that we were in, a Brazilan TAM jet, shudddered and shook quite a lot as it heaved its way over the snow capped peaks that clutched as its wingflaps. I nervously recalled that TAM has the second worst safety record in the world. Yet we arrived in Rio safely. We run the gauntlet again later today, as we quit Rio and fly with TAM four hours north to Manaus, the humid jungle city and gateway to the mighty Amazon.
Craig (and Ross).
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